HYDERABAD, July 15: The Anti-Terrorism Court, Hyderabad, on Monday awarded death sentence to Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh and life term to co-accused — Syed Salman Saqib, Fahad Naseem and Sheikh Adil — in the Daniel Pearl kidnapping and murder case.

The judge, Syed Ali Ashraf Shah, found Omer Sheikh guilty of committing offences under sections 7-A of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 365-A (kidnapping for ransom), 302 (murder) and section 120-A of the Pakistan Penal Code (conspiracy), after a trial inside the central prison here.

The judge sentenced the three co-accused — Syed Salman Saqib, Fahad Naseem and Sheikh Adil — to life imprisonment and a fine of Rs500,000 each. In case of default of payment of fine, the co-accused will have to undergo another five years of rigorous imprisonment. The court also ordered that all the four accused would jointly pay an amount of Rs2 million that would be paid to Pearl’s widow, Mariane Pearl and his recently born son.

The judgment was announced at 10.30am in the presence of all the four accused. Defence counsel Rai Bashir Ahmed and Mohsin Imam, junior lawyer of Omer Sheikh, were also present.

All the roads leading to the central jail had been closed for traffic since early morning. Heavy contingents of police were deployed in and around the central prison, nearby buildings and a hotel to ward off any eventuality. An armoured personnel carrier and a police mobile were also deployed at the main entrance to the jail.

At 9.55am Advocate-General Sindh, Raja Qureshi arrived at the jail in the vehicle of AIGP Hyderabad. He was escorted by SP (Investigation) in a private car. DPO Hyderabad was also there to oversee security arrangements at the venue. For security reasons the AG arrived in Hyderabad in a chopper and also left for Karachi in the same chopper. At 10am Rai Bashir, the defence counsel, arrived along with Syed Abdul Raoof, Rana Khaleeq-uz-Zaman, father-in-law of Salman Saqib. IG (Prisons) Brigadier Nisar Mahar arrived at 10.10am followed by Saeed Ahmed Sheikh, father of Omer Sheikh. DSP Qasimabad, Amir Abbas Shah escorted the ATC judge to the jail at 10:25am.

Police conducted search of pedestrians, motorcyclists and motorists at different routes. Aslam Sheikh, brother of co-accused Sheikh Adil, had to reach the jail with his brother Sohail Sheikh on foot as his rickshaw was disallowed entry.

A large number of newsmen representing national and foreign media had to wait outside the jail till 10:40 when they were called inside for a briefing by the advocate-general about the contents of the verdict. The journalists were asked to hand over their mobile phones to the prison and police officials.

In his 54-page judgment, the judge set eight points of determination in the case. Of these, he observed, seven points stood proved. The judge held Omer Sheikh responsible for creating a sense of fear nationally and internationally. He ruled that Omer Sheikh had hatched a conspiracy and was the principal offender.

He associated other co-accused with him in order to accomplish his task of creating fear nationally and internationally.

Five items, including a scanner, a laptop computer and disk, one video cassette, one CD and a handbag were recovered by the police.

The court has given benefit of section 382-B of CrPC (meaning that the days of accused, passed in jail during hearing of case, would be deducted from the imprisonment).

The court ordered that the sentences would run concurrently. The death sentence would be executed subject to the confirmation by the SHC, the court ordered.

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